Imagine a less spry and agile Indiana Jones and you have Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), a Harvard professor of religious iconography and symbology (not a real academic discipline). He’s riddled his way from the page to the screen in the wildly popular “The DaVinci Code,” and “Angels & Demons,” adapted from Dan Brown’s series of quasi-religious, art history-inspired mystery novels most likely to be found on the shelf of an Airbnb rental. Now imagine a less spry and agile Indiana Jones in “The Hangover,” with shades of “Contagion” wafting about, and you have the third film in the trilogy, “Inferno.”
In “Inferno,” Langdon wakes up in a Florence hospital bed with one heck of a hangover. He’s beset by horrible visions of wrecked bodies with backwards heads covered in skin pustules, men in beaked masks, a mysterious woman on a fiery street. He’s got a head wound, no idea where he is, and the worst migraine of all time. Director Ron Howard, who also helmed the previous two installments, takes the head trauma as an opportunity to experiment with an edgier form and style. The screeching noises, flashing lights, rapid editing and queasy camera movements will make you too feel like you’re experiencing head trauma.
Amnesiac Langdon is rapidly whisked out of the hospital by an attentive doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), who happens to be a fan of his work. He’s got a “Faraday pointer” secreted in his clothing (essentially a laser that projects an image of Dante’s Inferno). They decipher the coded image and link it to an eccentric billionaire bioengineer, Betrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), who has conveniently laid out in a YouTube lecture his radical theories about global overpopulation and thinning the herd with a weaponized virus, for the good of the planet.
Fans of Mabel “Madea” Simmons’ longtime foil Joe will be happy to see the wisecracking character let loose — even looser than usual — in Tyler Perry’s “Boo! A Madea Halloween.”
Joe goes above and beyond in his lewd quips. And he gets to bind and gag a trespassing clown.
Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) will use a gun if the situation calls for it, but he prefers to use his fists. His punches in “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” don’t so much land as explode like cannon shots, decimating car windows, cement walls and the faces of his enemies: soldiers turned mercenaries with grown-out buzz cuts. Reacher’s former military himself, an ex-major (emphasis on the “ex”) in the Military Police Corps.
Now he roams the land solving crimes, enacting justice, and calling the current commanding officer of the 110th, Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), to commiserate about the job. When Susan’s arrested for espionage, Jack goes into full Reacher mode — he’s a bit like a very violent, near psychic MacGyver — to spring Susan from the clink and uncover a shady military arms deal.
The modern studio comedy increasingly feels limp, suffocated by the financial imperatives of high-concept plots and desperately in search of signs of life. Greg Mottola’s “Keeping Up With the Joneses” is, like many before it, fine enough. But it mostly goes down as another collection of funny people stuck in too narrowly clichéd roles in an overly familiar story.
It’s now been more than 10 years since “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” and five since “Bridesmaids.” (Feel old yet?) There have, undoubtedly, been good comedies since, namely things with Melissa McCarthy in them, Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha” and anything Wes Anderson is putting out. But there has been perhaps no greater casualty to the constrictions of blockbuster-centric Hollywood than comedy. The freedom necessary for comedy to thrive is mostly found on television; the action is with “Broad City,” “Atlanta,” “Inside Amy Schumer” and others.
Director Gavin O’Connor’s thriller “The Accountant” almost seems like an excuse for Ben Affleck to try his hand at playing a math whiz for once. But Affleck’s Christian Wolff is a far cry from Will Hunting. Chris is a high functioning math savant on the autism spectrum, who finds solace in ritual, routine, patterns and finishing his tasks. He leads an unassuming and mundane life in rural Illinois as a strip mall accountant, but of course what looks simple and quiet never is.
His unique gifts allow him a lucrative side-hustle as a forensic accountant for “some of the scariest people on the planet,” according to Ray King (J.K. Simmons), director of crime enforcement at the Department of the Treasury. But that part of his life isn’t so much what “The Accountant” is about. There’s no globe-trotting or cavorting with cartels and mob bosses. The film is a bit of a bait and switch. We think we’re diving into the antithetical world of the criminal accountant, but what the film wants to explore is where Chris came from, and how he works.
TORONTO (AP) — The face filmmaker Andrea Arnold makes at the thought of storyboarding her films is the kind of bitter, disgusted look most people reserve for a bath full of leeches.
Once her “Eww!” has receded, the British director leans forward and explains why she won’t sketch her shots in advance. “I want to bring life into what I’m doing,” she says. “I try to create that sort of atmosphere which involves not being too structured. If I start controlling it too much, I think the life goes.”
“The Birth of a Nation ” has had more expectations placed on it than any movie could reasonably bear.
When the film about Nat Turner and his 1831 slave rebellion premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, it was held up, unfairly or not, as everyone’s great hope to save us from another year of #OscarsSoWhite. Some handful of months later, it became representative of something else when the focus shifted to the then little-known fact that its creator and star, Nate Parker, had a past that involved not only a rape allegation, but the eventual suicide of the accuser.
Tate Taylor’s “The Girl on the Train” may be technically set in the Westchester suburb of Ardsley-on-Hudson, but its cocktail of commuter trains, marital infidelity and alcoholism make its proper setting Cheever Country.
The unhappy, martini-stained lives of New York suburbanites have long been a rich vein for writers like John Cheever, Richard Yates and Paula Fox. “The Girl on the Train” is the trashier, paperback version. Its old-school title may suggest Hitchcock or maybe Fincher (who himself is remaking Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train”). But Taylor’s film, disappointingly, is nowhere near the league of either. Instead, it’s closer to the kind of early ’90s psychological thriller where bad things happen in slow motion and deadly instruments are drawn from kitchen drawers.
There’s a certain subset of the population that may find Zach Galifianakis in a ridiculous hairdo the height of comedy. If you are in that segment, welcome, join us. You’ll find much merriment in the lightweight and very silly comedy “Masterminds,” which is astonishingly based on the true story of one of the largest cash robberies in the United States. Also, Galifianakis sports a variety of insane wigs and ’dos, from a long blonde number, to a kinky black perm, to his own Prince Valiant bob, styled for the heavens.
“Masterminds” is a small, very strange film, and definitely doesn’t enter the upper echelons of director Jared Hess’ oeuvre, which includes the wacky comedy classics “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Nacho Libre,” or even the best work of its stars. Nevertheless, the marriage of the insane 1997 true crime story and the murderer’s row of comic performers results in copious laughter.
We all know how “Deepwater Horizon ” ends. When the BP oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, 11 people died and millions of gallons of oil spewed into the waters and up against the Gulf shores in the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
The story of the aftermath, even 6 years later, is still being written. The how-did-it-happen is another thing, and the point of director Peter Berg’s intensely thrilling indictment of the greed and gross negligence that contributed to the horrific outcome.
Fall has officially just started, but there’s still one more superhero flick sneaking in just before all the summer heat vanishes completely. But if you want muscled torsos and capes, you’ll be sadly disappointed.
After a steady stream this year of Batman, Superman, Captain America, X-Men and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it’s time now for a group of kids who float, are invisible, who spark fire, manipulate plants, control bees and give life to inanimate objects. Not really X-Men, exactly. Call them X-Tweens.
Just try to resist the charms of Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe,” a triumph-of-the-human-spirit movie that’s ultimately, well, triumphant. The story — a true one, as you’ll be reminded in the delightful end credits — is one of those irresistible underdog tales: Phiona (Madina Nalwanga), a young girl growing up in poverty in the slums of Katwe, Uganda, learns unexpectedly that she has a knack for chess. With the help of a kind mentor, Robert (David Oyelowo), and the support — if not always the understanding — of her fiercely loving widowed mother Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o), Phiona works hard to achieve her dream of becoming a chess champion.
You’ve likely seen a hundred movies with a similar arc (seems like I’ve seen a hundred of them already this year), but there’s a reason: when it works, it works. “Queen of Katwe,” for all its familiarity, is a family film in the best sense of the phrase. It’s suitable for all ages (though its two-hour running time may be a challenge for young squirmers), and it celebrates the bonds of family: both the one we are born into, and the one that we acquire.
Welcome to autumn, when studios large and small roll out what cynics might call “Oscar bait” and others might call “movies for actual adults” (and still others, probably younger than 8 years old, might call “boring”).
Until Dec. 16, that is, when roughly everyone will go see the new “Star Wars” movie, the second in two years. This is the new normal, people — a Star Wars movie every year. And look for a few other sci-fi movies packed into the Christmas season, perhaps piggy-backing o”Rogue One”
Deciding to remake “The Magnificent Seven ” with a fresh batch of movie stars is certainly no sin. John Sturges’ 1960 tome, itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic “Seven Samurai,” is a fun confection of star power and charismatic bravado, sure, but held in such high esteem probably more because of Elmer Bernstein’s iconic score than anything else. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a ragtag group of outlaws banding together to defeat a powerful bully?
But director Antoine Fuqua doesn’t exactly elevate that now well-trod premise in this dutiful and solid rehashing of the seven gunmen who attempt to save a terrorized town, even if he does up the shoot-’em-up action (and body count). Bernstein’s score is given a few nods throughout the film, but saved in full for the final credits. Thus, it’s left to the actors to carry us through the over two-hour running time.
Welcome to the very strange, and strangely moving, world of “Storks.” Writer-director Nicholas Stoller, known for his more adult comedies, such as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Neighbors,” delves into the family-friendly animated genre in a little movie about where babies come from. Or where they used to come from. In this world, the old wives tale of storks delivering bouncing bundles of joy is real history, though the birds have been relegated to delivering packages for CornerStore.com after one became too attached to a baby.
Stoller teams up with experienced animator Doug Sweetland for directing duties, and the story balances the fantasy world with more mundane realities. The film starts out as a workplace sitcom, as our protagonist, Junior the stork (Andy Samberg), is fired up for a promotion from boss Hunter (Kelsey Grammar). Unfortunately, accident-prone human orphan Tulip (Katie Crown) just keeps getting in his way. She’s the baby at the center of the stork-attachment incident, and she’s been raised in the warehouse.
What a treat it is to dive back into the cozy world of Bridget Jones, who is the kind of old friend you can pick up with right where it left off, no matter how long it’s been. “Bridget Jones’s Baby” opens with a familiar scene for our pal: Bridget (Renee Zellweger) celebrating her birthday alone to the tune of “All By Myself,” blowing out a candle on a single cupcake, guzzling white wine in her jammies. The pity party’s over soon enough though, as she skips the song and boogies instead to “Jump Around.” Has Bridget Jones gotten her groove back?
She does, in fact, have a groove, perhaps for the first time. She’s a producer on the television program “Hard News,” still has her great group of friends, even though they’re now all saddled with kids, and has achieved her ideal weight. But Bridget’s always been one for self-improvement, so when it comes to her love life, she’s is determined to make new mistakes, not old ones.
“Snowden,” Oliver Stone’s biopic about the world’s most famous National Security Agency whistleblower, certainly deals with an urgent and important issue: state surveillance, and how far is too far for the government to go.
Edward Snowden’s personal story — a hero to some, turncoat to others — is as compelling as they come, too. It’s not every day that a high-school dropout turned wannabe Army grunt becomes a CIA/NSA operative who leaks sensitive files and then flees the country, ending up in Russia.
The sight of a passenger plane along the skyline of New York is an image that has been seared in the global collective consciousness. It’s a memory that “Sully,” Clint Eastwood’s new film, acknowledges, but also attempts to redefine. What if a plane skimming skyscrapers could conjure an image not just of unimaginable terror, but one of incredible heroism and skill? That’s what “Sully” might accomplish, in committing to film the heartwarming story of “The Miracle on the Hudson,” when Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger made a forced water landing on the Hudson River with 155 passengers aboard a U.S. Airways flight to Charlotte.
Eastwood is an efficient, restrained and methodical filmmaker, an approach that lends well to the temperament and character of Sully, as he is portrayed by Tom Hanks. What’s remarkable about the incident as we see it on screen, is just how calm everyone remains throughout the 208 second ordeal. Perhaps because they didn’t know just how amazing this feat would be, but also because everyone is just doing their jobs very, very well. From the air traffic controller to the ferry captains to Sully himself, along with his First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) and the flight attendants, every player is professional, motivated and exceedingly helpful.
The tale of Robinson Crusoe, loosely based on the real life experiences of castaway Alexander Selkirk, has been told for hundreds of years, since Daniel Defoe’s 1719 epistolary novel. But what if Crusoe’s story had been seen from the perspective of the animals and local wildlife he encountered during his shipwrecked stay on a tropical island? That’s what the animated feature “The Wild Life,” directed by Vincent Kesteloot, imagines.
“The Wild Life” is produced by Nwave Pictures, a Belgian animation studio, and the film has a different feel than most of the heavily joke-driven animated features produced stateside. There’s much more of a historical action-adventure storyline in the telling of Crusoe’s story, as related by curious parrot Mak, or Tuesday (David Howard) as Crusoe calls him.
With “Blue Valentine” and “The Place Beyond the Pines,” filmmaker Derek Cianfrance has proved that he has a knack for both intimate romantic fables and sweeping family epics that span decades. In his adaptation of M.L. Stedman’s 2012 debut novel “The Light Between Oceans,” Cianfrance makes a film that is both epic and intimate, a love story intertwined with tragedy. In stars Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, he finds performers who manage to deftly inhabit the characters, and just keep it from tipping over into Nicholas Sparks-style soapy melodrama.
“The Light Between Oceans” boasts fine performances and exquisite filmmaking in the cinematography, production, sound and costume design, and it’s almost enough to shake off the clingy soapy residue that comes with the romantic drama territory. It’s 1918 Australia, and Tom Sherbourne (Fassbender) a veteran of the Great War, is seeking some solitude in order to process his experience. He takes a post as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Island, and en route to his new home, catches the eye of a young local woman, Isabel (Vikander). After a picnic and some letter-writing, the two are married and start a life for two isolated on Janus.
It wouldn’t be fair to compare father and son, but Ridley Scott’s progeny, Luke Scott, takes on some similar themes to his father’s work in his feature directorial debut, “Morgan.” In a story that contemplates the emotional boundaries and consequences of artificial intelligence, Seth W. Owen’s script landed on the 2014 Black List of Best Unproduced Screenplays, and in Scott, “Morgan” finds an appropriate marriage between material, filmmaker, and yes, family legacy.
While Deckard was compelled by the state to hunt for replicants in Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” in “Morgan,” artificial intelligence is a privatized affair. Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a corporate fixer/troubleshooter, is dispatched to a remote wooded lab facility to check on the status of one of her company’s assets — a young girl known as Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) to her ad-hoc family of scientist caretakers.